It seems outrageously unfair that after well-paid and exciting playing careers, some footballers get to go on and have well-paid and exciting managerial careers. Why do us mere mortals who have never managed to finish a Sunday League game without a stitch not get a go? Unfortunately, given that footballers are supposedly more “talented”, we had a look at some of the players who might be taking the step from the pitch to the sideline in the near future…
This one’s a no brainer. James Milner is a man so sensible he has managed to turn being boring into an entire brand. Whilst other footballers are being forced to show off ever more lavish tricks to glean TikTok views during this time of quarantine, Milner has got away with counting tea bags. Genius.
As a boss, he will be unlikely to ever do anything truly spectacular but will always ensure the basics are meticulously well done. Consequently, his managerial career will be constantly debated over by people claiming he isn’t actually that good, despite his coincidental ability to win lots of trophies. With his experience playing in every outfield position on the pitch, his popularity with the board will soar as they realise they can get away with only hiring a goalkeeper coach. And with motivational rhetoric like this, his players’ heads will never go down.
Troy Deeney has the exact level of intensity that would strike fear into the hearts of opposition players – and probably his own. This is a man well prepared to yell at the fourth official, at the referee, at opposition fans. He’ll be adored by fans of the club he manages, but hated by everyone else – and an expert at keeping clubs doomed to relegation up. No one other than his side will have the ‘cojones’ to compete.’
Kevin de Bruyne
They say the best players don’t always make the best managers but sometimes you just know that they will. Kevin de Bruyne has been lauded as one of the most intelligent players in the game and his entire aura suggests he will inherit the mantle Pep Guardiola inherited from Johan Cruyff: like those two, De Bruyne brings together the key principles of nonchalance and eye-watering talent. He even seems to already have picked up some of Guardiola’s spikiness in interviews.
Virgil van Dijk
If there’s one thing a manager needs, it’s gravitas. They must command respect, because otherwise no player will listen to a word they say, and they certainly won’t follow their instructions. You can get gravitas in various ways: through feats as a player, feats as a manager, force of personality, intelligence, charisma, but sometimes you just know someone has gravitas by the way they carry themselves. Van Dijk has that, and he’s been used to directing Liverpool’s defence around for a few years anyway, so you wouldn’t have thought being in the dugout will faze him much.
After a meandering career across Finland, Spain, Germany, Scotland, England, Scotland, Germany, Spain and Finland, Teemu Pukki will have been quietly managing a second division Danish team, then spotted by a suit looking to make a favourable impression on his club’s board, Pukki will be brought into manage a Premier League team who are struggling but willing to take a punt. Everyone down the pub claims they remember who he is. He has a brilliant first three games in charge, and then nothing much happens after that. He is quietly sacked and returns to a much more pleasant life in management in Scandinavia, destined to be a niche question in football quizzes forever more.
You don’t need to be conventionally ‘smart’ to be a manager: plenty aren’t, and are successful because of a different sort of intelligence, or are successful in spite of their lack of intelligence. But having your wires connected properly certainly helps, and there aren’t many current footballers who have their wires connected better than Romelu Lukaku. It’s not just the languages – eight, we think, although to be honest we’ve lost count as he seems to be learning new ones just for yucks – but you only have to listen to him speak for a few minutes to know there’s plenty going on between those ears.
At least one of Diego Simeone’s phalanx of loyal followers will have soaked up some of his wisdom, nous and ability to look like an assassin on an evening at the opera. Frankly it could be any of them – Koke, Gabi Diego Costa…OK, probably not Diego Costa – but the one that seems most likely, the one who was his manager’s eyes, ears, brain and bulging-vein-on-the-side-of-the forehead on the pitch, is Diego Godin. Godin is 34, things haven’t gone exactly to plan so far at Inter and he might have half an eye on his next move: could that move be into management?
Some of the greatest managers have had their early promise as footballers unfortunately curtailed, so who better to make a glowing return to the peak of football as a manager than Josh McEachran? Wildly overhyped as one of the numerous wildly overhyped players from Chelsea’s academy, McEachran was the first person to play in the Champions League who had been born since its inception, but he never managed to break into the first team and after numerous loan spells and injuries is currently warming the bench at Birmingham. He’s practically guaranteed to make a triumphant return from a mediocre career.
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